Tigers Get Their First Win.
Sammie Coates was impressive on this
War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for
the Acid Reign report, on Auburn’s 31-28 overtime win over
upset-minded Louisiana Monroe. It was not a thing of beauty, but
Auburn snatched the victory away from the Warhawks on a 35 yard Cody
Parkey field goal in the bottom half of the first overtime period.
While many of the team’s glaring problems were still evident this
week, there were flashes of improvement. When this team learns to
play to their strengths consistently, they’ll be very good. Until
then, they’ll be ruled by blown opportunities.
It was really a tale of three games.
ULM played better for most of the first half, then two miracle plays
put Auburn up at halftime. Auburn put together two convincing drives
to start the second half, scoring, then fumbling the ball away deep
in Warhawk territory. After the fumble, the Auburn offense just
evaporated, and a tired defense was trying to hang on. Had Mike
Blakely tucked the ball away instead of fumbling, the game would have
been 35-14 Auburn at that point.
I think it’s very important to give a
big tip of the cap to the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks. That was as good
a team as they’ve ever had, and they did a great job hanging in
there, and never giving up. I think their head coach let them down in
overtime, sending in a kicker who’s only hit 5 of 16 field goals in
his career, rather than going for a very makeable 4th and
5. The decision on the last play of the first half to blitz didn’t
turn out so well, either, when they failed to get Frazier on the
While we’re on the subject of bad
coaching decisions, I’d have to really question the play calls late
in the game. With Auburn clinging to two, and then one touchdown
leads, who did Scot Loeffler think he was fooling? If you’re gonna
run the ball on first down with a lead, don’t try it from the 3 wide
receiver, one back set. Needing to run clock in the 4th
quarter with a seven point lead, it went like this. Three wides,
Mason up the gut for a loss of one. Louisiana consistently used
“field pressure,” sending extra blitzers from the wide side of
the field. Why we keep trying to screen it to McCalebb on the short
side, I’ll never know. Give him some green grass to work with,
While the offense looked a lot better
in the first half with some nice short throws to receivers not named
Blake and Lutzenkirchen, the fact is that ULM played more consistent
football for the first 27 minutes of the first half, and had a 14-7
lead. Auburn’s likely last drive of the half wasn’t going so well,
either. Having mashed out a first down on two good running plays,
here we were calling another first down pass. Frazier rolled out, and
lofted up an absolute wounded-duck blooper of a ball, setting up
Phillip Lutzenkirchen for the kill. Lutz somehow managed to hold onto
the ball despite being hammered by the defender. An undeserved
personal foul added 15 more yards. Looked like a clean hit, to me.
One awkward looking, extremely slow-developing double pass later,
Auburn had tied the game. ULM made a dumb decision to run the kickoff
out of the endzone, got tackled on the seven, and subsequently went
three and out, setting up the miracle Frazier to Sammie Coates Hail
Mary, and Auburn led at the half.
Tackling got a little better in this
one, and the Auburn defense did managed some good stops. Still, some
of the personnel decisions leave one scratching their heads. After
Demetruce McNeal led the team in tackles in Starkville, the staff’s
answer was to sit him on the bench and start walk-on Trent Fisher
instead. Fisher responded with one solo tackle, and one assist. When
McNeal got back in the game, he contributed nine solo tackles a
tackle for a loss, and a pass breakup. Why sit him?
Special teams won this game, with the
winning field goal, and two blocked attempts of Warhawk kicks. ULM’s
Cortney Davis brought three kicks out of the end zone, and his
longest return was only 11 yards! A few cracks showed this week,
though. Quan Bray made a dangerous play on a punt inside his own ten,
and a couple of short punts held down Steven Clark’s average on an
otherwise monster day.
Unit grades after the jump.
Auburn’s still getting killed in the middle of the line. We’re
basically playing a two-gap defense, but we don’t have a tackle
capable of sliding side to side and filling two holes. We give up big
runs up the gut every week. This week’s sad sack moment was a 3rd
and 2 play, where the Auburn inside defenders let quarterback Kolton
Browning take a ball right up the gut for a 39 yard touchdown. On 3rd
and 2. (Shakes head!) Auburn’s ends played a good bit better this
week, with the exception of jumping offside twice. Corey Lemonier,
Dee Ford, and Nosa Eguae combined for 12 total tackles, a sack, and 7
quarterback hurries. The first three weeks, it looked like Auburn
might be able to take advantage of some youth on opposing offensive
lines. It hasn’t happened, for the most part. I shudder to think what
this unit will look like against LSU’s veteran, strong guys.
Darren Bates and Jake Holland improved substantially from their
performance in Starkville. They contributed 24 total tackles, had
three pass breakups, and four quarterback hurries. I think coach Van
Gorder has realized that these guys are not going to be able to just
stand there and react to the ball. They’ve got to be used to
head-hunt, moving forward towards the ball. If we can just keep this
going consistently, they’ll be alright.
Tackling was a bit better in this one, especially when Demetruce
McNeil entered the game. Coverage was better also, but guys still
aren’t making the play on the ball. Kolton Browning threw 46 balls in
the game, completing 28. McNeil broke one of them up. None of the
other secondary members had a tip, or an interception.
None of Steven Clark’s six punts were returned, and he had a 40.1
yard average. Had a punt of 28 yards, and one of 32 yards that kept
the ball from being killed inside the 20, and hurt his average.
We’re still not blocking these well, and mostly trying to go after
the punter. Quan Bray had a nice, shifty 18 yard return in the first
half, but messed around with a bouncing ball inside the ten, in the
second half. It was dangerous, but he kept that ball from being
downed on the one or two, gathering it in at the seven, instead.
ULM was taking few chances, and kicked to the end zone. Onterio
McCalebb took one just behind the goal line early, and got a 24 yard
return out of it. Taking a knee would have put it a yard further out.
Cody Parkey has been sensational all year, and the coverage unit
joined him this week. They were absolutely brutal on ULM’s kick
returners, hammering them down well short of the 15 yard line every
Auburn actually won most individual battles up front, paving the way
for a 255 yard rushing day. Khiel Frazier was only sacked twice, and
he held the ball all day long. When the Auburn running game was
stopped, it was because ULM had more defenders in the box than Auburn
I have to count off a letter grade for a lost fumble. Auburn backs
ran well, caught the ball well, and blocked well. Too bad we like to
run them to the short side of the field with little lead blocking.
We’d be running well, then suddenly we’d pull Jay Prosch and Brandon
Fulse off the field, and still try to run the ball into eight
defenders in the box, with only 5 blockers. Bam. 2nd
and 12. And another failed drive.
Downfield blocking was much better this week, and these guys
basically caught everything that was thrown to them. Too bad it was
so few times. Points off for lining up wrong once, and taking a
touchdown pass to Sammie Coates off the board on the formation
There were good, sharp passes earlier, and Frazier made it into his
second and third reads a few times. I liked his running on the
throwback double pass reception, and I loved his ad-lib on the last
play of the first half. The decision-making in the second half wasn’t
so great. I fault the scheme for putting him in one bad situation
after another. You can’t throw it up for grabs with a lead, and
Frazier did that. By his own admission, he couldn’t see through
tackle Greg Robinson, and let it go anyway.
been said that one should never argue with a win, and that certainly
applies here. I think we should take this win, and enjoy it. I think
there will be more good days to come, but probably not against LSU
next week. We can beat Arkansas at home, and I think Vandy and Ole
Miss are vulnerable, too. The Tigers may yet go bowling, and will be
one of those improving teams in the Music City or Liberty, that teams
I think coach VanGorder’s guys are starting to get it down. If we
could have just knocked a few more balls down when they were within
reach yesterday, folks would have been talking about how Auburn shut
down the Warhawk attack.
made strides on offense, but with the game on the line late, they
faltered badly. I’ll confess this: I have no idea what we’re trying
to accomplish with our offensive scheme. This team’s best identity is
clearly a jumbo, tight-end heavy package, but we keep abandoning it
in favor of a spread ’em out deal. We’re trying to run a full-blown
NFL passing attack, with a 2nd
year true sophomore quarterback who’s played in “spread to run”
systems his whole life. It’s like asking a second grader to do
derivatives and integrals. You’ve got to work up to the more advanced
stuff. No one sits down and knocks this stuff out from day one!
Eagle, folks. We’ll be here rain or shine, win or lose in coming
Saturdays. Stay behind this team, and cheer them on. They beat a good
ULM team that has a strong shot at winning their conference. And the
Sun Belt is no joke, this year. They’ve taken Arkansas and Kentucky
down already. The Auburn Tigers now must buckle down and get ready
for the meat of their SEC schedule. I’m looking for a full stadium,
and a noisy atmosphere to greet LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
It’s his first road start against an SEC team, this week. I call on
all Auburn fans to get in his head, and do all they can to help
Auburn win this game!